Protein linked to weak executive thinking identified

Updated: Mar 30, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: American scientists have claimed
to have identified a protein, which if present in high
quantity in human body, leads to changes in brain linked to
problems with executive thinking skills.

For their study, researchers from University of Munster
in Germany, measured verbal memory, word fluency and executive
function -- the process in the brain that allows for planning,
decision making and selection of appropriate behaviour -- of
447 stroke and dementia-free people with an average age of 63.

Participants were also made to undergo MRI brain scans
such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a technique that
measures water molecule movements in the brain, as per the
study that appears in Neurology, the medical journal of the
American Academy of Neurology.

The scientists found that a high level of C-reactive
protein, CRP, a marker for inflammation in the blood, led to
worse performance in executive function.

While overall, average time to complete a test of
executive function was 85 seconds, those with the highest
levels of CRP took an average of seven seconds longer to
complete the test than those with the lowest levels of the

The brain changes measured with DTI were equivalent to 12
years of ageing for those with the highest levels of CRP
compared to those with the lowest levels.

"The use of aspirin and statin drugs as well as physical
activity and controlling weight can help lower CRP levels in
the body, but our analyses did not consider whether therapy
would be effective or not," said study author Heike Wersching.

Higher levels of the protein also affected the frontal
lobe of the brain, where some motor functions take place.

Motor skills, however, were not measured in the study.
Other areas of cognition, such as memory and language
skills, showed no association with CRP.